Saturday, 15 September 2007

One Woman a Minute

Pregnancy kills one woman per minute. Unsafe abortion kills one woman every eight minutes. Reproductive Health Reality Check says:

. . .every minute, a woman still dies as a result of pregnancy or childbirth. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in developing countries (primarily in Africa and Asia), and the vast majority of them are preventable. . . .

One in eight of those women dying every minute as a result of pregnancy and childbirth are women dying from unsafe abortions, after all--totaling 68,000 women every year, a figure that hasn't changed in nearly two decades. Nearly half of these deaths occur in Africa, where abortion is largely illegal, and rarely available even under circumstances where it is legal.

We decided to have a look at current news stories from Africa.

First, there's this from Uganda.

Over 1,000 Ugandan women die every year as a result of unsafe abortions and an additional 68,000 suffer serious health complications, according to a recently released report from the Ministry of Health.

"As many as 1,200 unsafe abortions result in death each year. Nearly a quarter (23%) of all abortions result in serious complications," says the report Road map for accelerating the reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity in Uganda. . . .

Because abortion is illegal in Uganda, and because of the widespread social stigma attached to the practice, many women who experience complications are not seeking or receiving any help. "Roughly one in five of the estimated 297,000 women who have an abortion each year - a total of 65,000 women - suffer complications that require medical care but do not get treatment in a medical facility," says the report.

Now, let's have a look at Nigeria:

The statistics are alarming, over 760,000 abortions yearly in the country resulting in over 140,000 hospitalisations.

Abortions has been identified as the major reason Nigeria records one of the highest cases of maternal mortality ratio of 800 deaths per 100,000 births yearly in the world.

These figures, alarming as they are, have been referred to as conservative estimates by researchers and institutions working in the country.

This is because cases of victims of sexual violence such as rape, incest, among others are hardly ever reported or brought to lime-light. Indeed most people who engage in abortion or fall victim of sexual violence would never want to divulge details of where and how it happened. Reason being that the society still abhors abortion even when it becomes very necessary (e.g. rape) and the Nigerian laws does not adequately provide for safe abortion just as there exists no law that exhaustively spells out punishment commensurate for perpetrators of sexual violence.

Weeping yet? Wait, there's some good news from Ghana.

New faculties for Comprehensive Abortion Care and family planning will be built at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital . . . . In an interview with The Statesman Professor E Y Kwawukume said that two buildings will be constructed at the Teaching Hospital specifically for training centres in comprehensive abortion care and family planning. . . . Prof Kwawukume explained that the facilities will allow teaching of medical students, nurses and doctors on CAC, including practical training in abortion procedures and counseling, building on the elements already included in the syllabus such as post abortion care and family planning. . . .

The World Health Organisation estimates Ghana's maternity mortality rate at 540 deaths per 100,000 live births, but despite one of the most progressive laws on abortion, this figure is one of the highest in West Africa and unsafe abortion is largely responsible for the figure.

Part of the problem is that women don't know the law and are not enlightened by health-care providers.

In an interview with The Statesman, the women’s rights activist and doctor of 17 years explained that women are often refused abortions because of personal views of heath personnel on the procedure.

Sound familiar?

Despite Ghana having a more progressive law than many African countries, (Dr Jehu-Appiah) believes there should be no law on abortion at all, following in the footsteps of countries like Canada where the maternal mortality rate is very low, "if we did not have a law restricting abortions we would be able to reduce this figure to zero." He added "a woman of 15-25 years old does not deserve to die just because she is pregnant".

Most of Africa is grappling with enormous problems of all kinds, largely because of poverty.

But women will have abortions. And when law or stigma drives them to back-street providers and, further, keeps them from seeking medical help when these procedures are botched, there will be continued death and disability. And expense.

Hey, let's try a little rationality on the problem. The Reproductive Health Reality Check article points out:

Using Mexico City as a case study, another article compares the cost of providing safe and legal abortion (US$53 to US$143 per procedure) to the cost of dealing with complications from unsafe abortion when abortion is illegal (US$601 to over US$2,100 per woman suffering from complications).

Hmm. On the one hand, abortion that is safe, legal, socially accepted, and inexpensive. On the other, abortion that is illegal, stigmatized, and wildly unsafe. And expensive to remedy, if it is.

By providing safe, legal abortion services, poor countries could free up health-care resources for other critical needs.

When abortion is criminalized, it goes underground. This is what the Krazy Kristian Kriminalizers want to impose on us.

One woman every eight minutes dies from an unsafe abortion. How long did you take to read this?

NOTE: This is not satire. We return to our regular programming soon.

(First published at Birth Pangs.)

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